Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller announced the plans this week, describing how Poland will impose financial penalties on any domestic company that imports Russian coal into the country. Customs officials in Poland will also begin carrying out checks to ensure that coal is not entering the country from Russia.
Mueller said that Poland could not wait for the rest of the European Union to introduce energy sanctions against Russia.
“We cannot wait any longer for the EU reaction on the issue,” Mueller said. “We are aware of the risks.”
It’s a bold move for Poland, not just because it’s out of step with the rest of the European Union, but because 20% of the country’s coal comes from Russia.
Roughly half of the coal imported from Russia to Poland is used to generate heat in homes, while the rest is used in district heating or for industrial purposes. According to Piotr Lewandowski, the president of the Institute for Structural Research based in Warsaw, Poland, the fact that we are entering the spring gives the Polish government time to figure out where to make up for that shortfall in coal.
“That’s why it’s much easier to ban coal in the final week of March than in October,” he said. “The question now is how do you prepare for the next heating season?”
Why Europe Hasn’t Yet Imposed Sanctions
While the European Union has imposed economic sanctions against Russia, the political and economic bloc has not followed in the United States’ footsteps and blocked the import of Russian oil, coal, and natural gas.
That’s because Europe is largely dependent on Russian oil.
In 2020, Europe imported around 185 billion cubic meters of Russian gas, which accounts for roughly 36% of total European gas demand. By 2021, Europe imported around the same amount, accounting for roughly 34% of demand that year. That means Russia is by far the biggest supplier of gas in Europe.
Russian exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) also account for around a third of the global LNG trade as of 2021.
Despite more than a decade of discussion among European Union member nations about a need to reduce reliance on Russian natural gas, little has been done. Even after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the sanctions that followed, Europe progressed with the construction of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline that runs from Russia, under the Baltic Sea, and into Germany.
And while the Nord Stream 2 pipeline’s certification has been delayed, it looks unlikely that Germany will actually cancel the project.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.